Sunday, August 4, 2013

The Peter Pan of perennials

A couple of weeks ago on my way up to the Tatton Flower Show I called in at Trentham Gardens,  just outside Stoke on Trent. I have visited this previously but on that occasion, my camera annoyingly died after one photograph and so I was determined to visit again and this time to record the gardens. The Trentham Estate goes back centuries, although the last Trentham Hall which was built in 1830 has now gone. It survived until 1912 when it was offered by the 4th Duke of Sutherland to the people of Stoke on Trent. The city rejected the offer and the duke demolished the house. A few fragile remains of a conservatory and outbuildings remain in a ruinous state. However a fine Capability Brown landscape surrounding  a lake survives together with a reborn Victorian terrace.

All that remains of the house

Capability Brown's serpentine lake

The main attractions here are the vast formal Italian gardens originally laid out by Charles Barry, later architect of the house of parliament. This huge terrace garden contains many formal beds that would originally have been filled with thousands of colourful bedding plants, all interspersed by  gravel paths, green lawns and various formal pools and fountains.  Since 2000 the garden has undergone a massive £120million restoration. Most of the terrace beds, and there are a lot of them, have been planted with herbaceous perennials and grasses in a prairie style. These were designed by Tom Stuart-Smith. The result in mid summer is interesting, as many of the plantings are tall. The shapes and geometric patterns of the beds are lost but the experience of walking amongst the often head high perennials and grasses is great.

General view across the Italianate terraces

A smaller area at the top of the Italian garden and nearest to the remains of the house is planted with formal seasonal bedding to give an idea of the original Victorian style. It's poorly executed and rather disappointing but gives some idea of the grandeur of the original scheme.

A final area to one side includes more informal prairie style plantings, called the Floral Labyrinth and the Rivers of Grass, both by the Dutch plantsman Piet Oudolf.This section is quite spectacular with big swathes of striking planting.

Peter Pan, the boy in the story written by JM Barrie may have been the 'boy who never grew up' but this garden by Charles Barry has not only grown up but been reborn into a beautiful 21st century landscape. Well worth a visit!

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